The Red Road is Aaron Guzikowski’s original dramatic thriller centering around two clashing communities: a Native American tribe and the small town with which they are forced to coexist. As the second season of the acclaimed Sundance Channel drama comes to a close in a few weeks, there is turmoil abounding. The long-awaited federal recognition of the Native American tribe has exacerbated decades-old tensions and history and the fates of Harold (Martin Henderson) and Kopus (Jason Momoa) are once again tied as the relationship between their communities becomes volatile. Through the second season, the tribe and the community must decide their futures after some of their most prominent members are killed. In true Guzikowski fashion (he’s the screenwriter best known for the dark thriller Prisoners), there are no heroes or villains but complicated characters just trying to live alongside each other. Nerdist visited the set of series and spoke with Guzikowski as well as star Martin Henderson about the gritty drama’s second season and what truly lies beneath The Red Road.
“It’s interesting,” says Aaron Guzikowski of the relationship between the Ramapough Mountain people and the residents of the neighboring fictional small town in New Jersey. “I think both communities have their underbelly, their secrets, and they’re also connected in this secret kind of way that makes it interesting. They kind of clash with each other but they also kind of need each other to survive, which they aren’t even really aware of in some sense. I couldn’t say which side has more in terms of the dark underbelly and the secrets behind the closed doors, or in this case, under the ground or out in the woods or whatever it might be, but I’m fascinated with both. I love the woods and the way this tribe lives and the living in the past, in a way—in a good way—and out in the small town and the blasé suburbia and what goes on inside of all of those little houses and things like that. It’s fun to kind of play with the contrast.”
For Martin Henderson, who series creator Guzikowski called “perfect for this part,” even he was unclear about who his character was in the beginning. According to the New Zealand-born actor, those questions were what made him want the role of complicated police officer Harold Jensen. “I was intrigued,” says Henderson upon reading the pilot way back when. “I loved the ambiguity and the mystery and I couldn’t tell what was going on. I was really curious about my character too. He was sort of an enigma and I couldn’t figure out who he was and that was interesting. It was also daunting to play someone that you that way about because he wasn’t clearly defined and I think that’s part of Aaron’s writing. He leaves a lot of empty space for you to guess at and then slowly, over hours and hours of episodes, he fills in the blanks and the backstory and more details.”
Henderson continued, saying, “One of the exciting things with that dark, thrilling stuff, it’s that ambiguity that Aaron writes so well where you’re not able to pin point, ‘Is he the good guy or the bad guy?’ with all of the characters. He’s really good with everyone having secrets and everyone having their good side and their dark side and everybody is hiding a little something and I think that authenticity about humanity and the human condition is really nice to play rather than someone who is just straight up noble… What’s lovely about the characters that Aaron writes is that you get to see both sides.”
Season one of The Red Road is streaming instantly on Netflix now. New episodes air Thursdays at 10/9c on The Sundance Channel.